We all love to spoil our dogs, especially given some of the backgrounds the dogs we rehome have. It’s hard not to remember the underweight dog that arrived with you all the way from Spain after being rescued from their hunter who had almost certainly underfed them, resulting in lots of counter surfing and probably a couple of months trying to get a bit more meat on their bones.
However, with canine obesity being one of the fastest growing health concerns for dogs, it’s important that we are able to provide them with a balanced diet and the right amount of exercise to stay fit and healthy.
It’s also extremely important to ensure you know what a healthy weight for your dog is and how to maintain it once that weight has been reached, even when those puppy dog eyes are staring at you asking for one more treat!
A growing problem
It’s estimated that about 35-50% of dogs in the UK are overweight and it is also suggested that many of us Brits think that a healthy dog should have a ‘rounded’ appearance. In actual fact, you should be able to feel and count a dog’s ribs without having to feel through a layer of fat, although the ribs should not be visible through the fur. They should also have a defined waist when looking from above.
Being overweight isn’t good
Letting your dog become overweight can affect both their quality of life and their lifespan dramatically. Even a moderately overweight dog can have a decreased lifespan which could be otherwise avoided. Health complications can include heart disease and diabetes among others. Carrying extra weight puts an extra strain on a dog’s joints and back which can be painful and lead to arthritis.
Like us humans, the main reason for a dog being overweight is too many calories being consumed and not enough burned off through exercise. This can be from general overfeeding, too many treats or feeding them unhealthy treats and food.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of dog food and treats on the market that are not very healthy. Many contain ‘filler’ ingredients to bulk out the food, making it cheaper to produce, which have no nutritional value or contain a lot of chemicals and artificial flavours to make it appealing to dogs. It’s the canine equivalent of fast food.
The good news is that many people are becoming more aware of what they feed their pets and so the choice of good quality food is forever increasing. Whether you feed raw, a home cooked diet or a high quality wet/dry dog food brand, there’s something to fit everybody’s budget while also making sure your dog has a great diet.
If you choose to feed your dog a branded diet, allaboutdogfood.co.uk is a great resource for learning more about the ingredients and composition of each brand, including many raw brands, as well as giving you an easy way to find the best quality food for your budget.
There are lots of simple ways to cut down on your dog’s food intake. Treats should come out of their daily food allowance, so make sure if you are giving them treats on walks or doing extra training with them, you give them less at meal times to compensate. Another great tip is to use toys and slow feeders to stop them eating too fast which will leave them more satisfied with less food.
There are also other benefits to this type of feeding which are explained here. If your dog is genuinely getting hungry between meal times, you can add snacks such as carrots, cucumber, apples and bananas. These are very low in fat and sugar but also have many other health benefits. It’s also a great idea to add fruit and veg to a dog’s meal instead of extra kibble for all the same reasons that it’s important that we have plenty in our diets. There are a few foods that are toxic to dogs (such as onions, grapes & garlic) so be careful to do some research before adding new foods to the dog bowl.
If you are unsure if your dog is a healthy weight, your vet will be able to weigh and advise.